Philippine capital staggers with explosive Covid-19 surge
Nearly 30,000 new cases reported daily since New Year
By Diana G. Mendoza
Manila – Even those who convey the news about Covid-19 were overcome by soaring infections in the Philippine capital as CNN Philippines temporarily stopped broadcasting on Jan. 10 due to limitations caused by the health protocols at its broadcast center in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila.
“We will temporarily go off-air. Our newscasts will still be available on Facebook Live,” the TV network said in a statement as it urged viewers to visit its digital and social media platforms. It resumed broadcasting the following day.
Over three million Filipinos have been confirmed hit by Covid-19 nearly two years into the pandemic after the DOH started reporting new infections of nearly 30,000 daily since the start of the New Year, up from only a few hundred daily tallies in the last quarter of 2021.
Other television networks and media offices experienced high positivity tests among their production, editorial and reportorial staff; those who work in-person or are alternately locked in at the editorial office, station or studio who tested positive in antigen and RT-PCR tests were asked to go on home care or check into quarantine hotels to isolate while undergoing treatment.
Many government and private offices were in the same situation. Some businesses, especially food establishments, closed down but promised to reopen in a few days as they disinfected and sent their staff home.
Elsewhere in Metro Manila, households experienced Covid-19 positive test results among their members. Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a TV interview that “contract-tracing is no longer of value with the very high Covid-19 transmission rate in the National Capital Region,” as every individual who comes in close contact with someone infected assumes that he or she is already exposed to the virus.
As of this writing, the DOH pegged the positivity rate up at 46 percent of more than 80,000 test results recently conducted. This rate is way above the World Health Organization’s threshold of 5 percent that indicates controlled transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes the serious respiratory illness Covid-19.
Health experts attributed Metro Manila’s new surge in infections to the gatherings that breached the social distancing protocols during the holiday season, and the omicron variant, although a slow genome sequencing process in state laboratories has yet to confirm if it is indeed the new omicron variant or still the more virulent delta.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on January 10 announced the country is now classified as at "critical risk" for Covid-19 after recording a massive 3,663 percent two-week growth rate in the record-breaking number of cases.
The surge started when many people were struck with flu after the New Year festivities, and the consequent shortage of paracetamol and other analgesics in the drugstores that prompted the government to request pharmaceutical companies to augment the medicine stocks.
As the current batch of patients have mild symptoms, and many opted to isolate and consult through telemedicine at home, the government still reported a high hospital bed utilization rate in the capital and its neighboring regions, with nearly half of isolation, intensive care unit and ward beds occupied.
The DOH said the recovery rate is still good, as of the more than 3 million cases, there were 2.7 million survivors. Vaccination especially for the third dose or booster shot continues despite the surge.
The scenes at the start of 2022 may be different from those of 2020 when families did not get to see their loved ones isolated in health facilities, intubated and eventually died from Covid-19.
But Xian Leyco, who works with the waitstaff of a fastfood chain, said “these moments bring back memories of 2020 – the streets are empty and no one wants to go out. It’s kind of sad.”